The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (“MERC”) released three decisions of note in June – two of which adopted Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) decisions after the relevant parties failed to file exceptions. Summaries of these decisions are as follows:
Wayne State Univ, Case No. C17 H-073. The Union filed an unfair labor practice charge alleging the University engaged in unlawful interference with unit employees’ exercise of their Section 9 rights, in violation of Section 10(1)(a) of the Public Employment Relations Act (“PERA”). The basis for the charge involved an admissions employee’s refusal to travel through inclement weather to a college fair, which the employee had volunteered to attend. The employee was given a written reprimand for insubordination. When a Union representative stated that employees would be informed that they could be disciplined for their refusal to attend voluntary events, the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management, on behalf of the University, responded that she could make further attendance at such events mandatory. The Union subsequently filed its unfair labor practice charge.
The ALJ determined the University had violated the PERA, but the MERC disagreed. It articulated that the Associate Vice President’s remarks were not a threat that unlawfully interfered with unit employees’ rights under the PERA. Instead, the MERC reasoned that the Associate Vice President merely predicted “what would happen if employees chose not to volunteer for recruiting events,” as it was undisputed that the University had the authority to compel the relevant to attend such events as part of their job descriptions. Thus, the MERC concluded no violation of the PERA occurred. The opinion may be accessed here.
DeWitt Ed Support Personnel Ass’n, Case No. CU13 J‑065. The case involved a former unit employee’s unfair labor practice charge against the Union. After Michigan’s right‑to‑work legislation passed, the employee informed the Union that she wished to tender her resignation as a dues‑paying Union member. The Union responded that, because she did not provide notice of her resignation within the “opt‑out” period, she could not resign until the following year. The Union issued a billing statement, and the employee potentially paid a partial amount invoiced – the record before the ALJ did not shed light on whether the amount paid was actually a partial payment for dues or not. The Union did not make further attempts to collect Union dues from the employee.
The ALJ determined the Union violated the PERA. While the Union conceded that enforcing the “opt‑out” period requirement violated PERA, it maintained that it should not be required to post a notice informing unit members that it would cease and desist from restraining and coercing members in the exercise of their Section 9 rights. The ALJ disagreed, noting that the Union had attempted to collect dues from the employee after she issued her resignation.
The case serves as a reminder that employees are free to associate with their union and are equally free to not associate with their union at all. The opinion may be accessed here.
Wayne‑Westland Comm Sch, Case No. 19‑A‑0092‑CE. The case involved an employee who was employed as a paraprofessional but was displaced from her position when it was terminated for budgetary reasons. The employee was eventually hired as a part‑time parent coordinator, a position outside her bargaining unit. Thereafter, she made a request to meet with the School District to discuss her displacement from her paraprofessional position – her request was untimely, however, as it was made well outside of the grievance timeline established by the collective bargaining agreement between the School District and Union. The meeting was held, but the employee was neither permitted to have a Union representative in attendance nor returned to a paraprofessional position. The employee filed an unfair labor practice charge against the School District, asserting it breached the terms of its collective bargaining agreement with the Union.
The ALJ dismissed the employee’s charge. He reasoned that the MERC does not have jurisdiction over breach of contract claims brought by individual employees, which are controlled by the applicable collective bargaining agreement. He also noted that the failure to afford the employee a Union representative at the meeting was not a violation of the PERA, because the employee only had a right to representation at an investigatory interview that may have reasonably been believed to lead to discipline. In this case, the meeting was to discuss the paraprofessional placement issue, and there was no prospect of disciplinary action against the employee. Consequently, there was no unfair labor practice.
The opinion may be accessed here.